Three Outstanding Alumni Honored with the Medallion Award

Posted June 01, 1988

Three outstanding alumni have been honored by the KSU Alumni Association.

Two, Grace Dickman King and A.G. Pickett, received the Alumni Medallion Award, the most prestigious of alumni association honors. It provides recognition for the achievements of alumni, who are selected for humanitarian service to society, significant contributions to community, state or nation, and outstanding work in their chosen field.

A third, Russell Thackrey, received the University's Centennial Alumnus Award.

Grace Dickman King '18, Manhattan, Kansas, is a retired principal and school teacher who has expended much of her considerable energy in service to her community and to K-State.

Susan Grace Dickman was born the next-to-youngest in a family of ten children. From an early age on, she was interested in education and determined that she would go on to high school and college — the first in her family to do so. To put herself through K-State she taught in country schools around her hometown of Fostoria, Kansas, earning $45 a month. That salary was supplemented by earnings from summer jobs and the 15 cents an hour she earned grading papers for professors.

King was a domestic science major and distinguished herself both academically and in extracurricular activities. She served as president of Omicron Nu, the student home economics association; was president of her social sorority, Alpha Delta Pi; and was president of Phi Kappa Phi scholastic honorary. She was also a member of the Quill Club, an organization for writers, from which she received junior and senior honors of recognition.

Her talents and ambition were ahead of her time, and she said that because of her gender, "I limited my activities to the more sedate. I couldn't be a county agent, but I did plan and initiate a township high school in my hometown of Fostoria. The school board came down to Manhattan to interview me as I was about to graduate ... Then, marriage plans interfered, so I decided to quit teaching. The board offered to double my salary. One member said, 'Grace, we'll give you $200 a month. No man is worth that.' But I was in love, so I ended my teaching and never regretted it."

But she never really stopped teaching, King insisted that her husband, Dr. Herbert H. King, head of the Kansas State Agriculture College chemistry department, take their children whenever he went to a Chemical Society meeting. "So, at an early age, we were exposed to museums, zoos, aquariums, observatories, anything intellectual," Shirley King Sikes '50, said. "The experience was indelible — a love of learning was passed on to my sister (Barbara King Hageman '49), and myself."

After the death of her husband in 1949 (the chemistry building is named in his honor), King and her daughters moved to Junction City, Kansas. She began a "third career" in the field of retail merchandising, and her early training in fabrics and design soon enabled her to become the buyer for Claire's Store.

King stayed active in education as president of the PTA, tutoring neighborhood children, giving talks at school assemblies and presenting programs to her daughters' Girl Reserve meetings. She taught Sunday School and organized women's activities in the church. King has always been interested in young people, and in 1986 was given a plaque by the Junction City YMCA in appreciation for her generous support of young people through that organization. She's also interested in older people, and continues to play the piano for the sing-a-longs at the Senior Citizen's Center in Junction City.

King endowed both the H.H. King Scholarship for chemistry students, and the H.H, King Lectures, in which outstanding scientists present research seminars on specialized scientific topics. She helped organize the Golden K Club to honor 50-year-graduates of K-State, and is a member of the KSU Foundation President's Club.

A.G. "Glenn" Pickett, former executive vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, is a cattleman whose practicality and foresight continue to influence Kansas agriculture.

Pickett is now retired on his 2,500-acre ranch northwest of Emporia, Kansas, where he runs around 250 Angus cows. He has spent his active life span helping others have a more bountiful and enjoyable life in the field of agriculture. His teachings were based on the thesis of "make it simple, workable and acceptable, and if possible, profitable."

A 1925 graduate of the College of Emporia, he served as a high school teacher, principal and coach from 1926 to 1930. His plans to attend K-State were postponed when he was persuaded to set up a school to issue diplomas to inmates at the Hutchinson State Reformatory, where he was an instructor and assistant farm superintendent for nearly four years. From there he moved to Haskell County as agricultural agent.

Pickett finally realized his goal of a degree from K-State in 1935, graduating with highest honors and memberships in Alpha Zeta and Phi Kappi Phi. He returned to extension work in the field, but came back to K-State in 1943 to work in extension and teach, helping develop pasture utilization programs and supervising cattle research.

From 1949 to 1970 he served as State Livestock Sanitary Commissioner, and from 1949 to 1970 as executive vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association.

One of his duties with the Kansas Livestock Association was to write an article for each issue of the Kansas Stockman. His articles were down to earth, practical and sensible — one reader said they were worth the entire cost of membership.

During his tenure as director of the National Live Stock and Meat Board (1949 to 1974), he established a policy committee whose recommendations led to the creation of species divisions within the meat board structure: Beef Industry Council, Pork Industry Group and Lamb Committee. This and other recommendations from the report inspired by Pickett laid the groundwork for the development of the national beef promotion federation of 38 state beef councils and the Beef Industry Council of the Meat Board, as well as expanded promotional policies for pork and lamb. Because of his foresight these program resources have increased almost 15-fold since 1961.

As State Livestock Sanitary Commissioner Mr. Pickett was responsible for the enforcement of livestock health laws and regulations. During his tenure he eradicated tuberculosis in cattle in Kansas and made major strides in eliminating brucellosis. Today, the Kansas Animal Health Department functions under excellent statutes initiated by him. The unique system of an Animal Health Board that helps advise and govern the Livestock Commissioner without partisan politics is the envy of many other states, again, thanks to his leadership.

In addition to his outstanding career work and membership in professional organizations, Pickett has been active as a livestock judge, as a member of civic groups, and is a supporter of K-State through the KSU Wildcat Club and the President's Club. He also actively interested in and involved in Kansas tax legislation. He is an honorary member of the Kansas Veterinary Medical Association and in 1969 received their Distinguished Service Award. He is an honorary life member of the Kansas Angus Association and the National Block and Bridle Club, and his portrait was hung in the gallery of Weber Hall in 1977.

In 1968 Pickett established K-State's Richard A. and Greta Bauer Pickett Memorial Scholarship in honor of his son, Dick (former K-State student body president), his wife and two of their four children, who were killed in an automobile accident while Dick was working on an animal science program in Argentina. Pickett's wife of 52 years, Willa Bell Pickett, died in 1984. Their two living children are both K-State graduates, Ruth Pickett Smith '56 and Rachel Pickett Imthurn '58.

Russell I. Thackrey, former head of the K-State Department of Journalism and Mass Communications and Dean of Administration, is the University's Centennial Alumnus.

Centennial alumni are selected by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges on the basis of their character and outstanding contributions to their academic discipline and higher education.

Thackrey holds a bachelor's degree in journalism (1927) and a master's degree in English (1932), both from Kansas State. He worked on several newspapers and taught journalism at Minnesota before returning to K-State in 1940 to head the journalism department. In 1943-1944, he served with the Naval Reserves, then was appointed Dean of Administration, Director of Summer School and Director of Veterans' Affairs by University President Milton Eisenhower. He served as Executive Director of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges from 1947 to 1970. A conference room at the Association's headquarters in Washington, D.C. has been named in his honor.

"For his time he was one of the foremost in preparing the American public to see value in providing higher education for the middle class and low income groups, as well as aiding the GI students," historian and author James C. Carey said of Thackrey. "These he accomplished in a quiet, unselfish manner that often ascribed the public credit to others than himself."

Thackrey is the recipient of the honorary doctor of laws degree from seven universities, including K-State. He wrote The Future of the State University, and was co-founder of the KSU Friends of Art, which has been responsible for building the University's permanent art collection.